The Government of Ontario today announced changes to the funding of autism therapies. Again. In an announcement this morning, Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services Todd Smith promised that the government is committed to “a needs-based program that provides children and youth with the supports they need to thrive.”
“My message to families of children and youth with autism is, we have heard you, and we are taking action,” said Smith. “Our government is committed to a needs-based program that provides children and youth with the supports they need to thrive. Over the past number of weeks, I have met with service providers and families of children with autism who share a common goal to provide the best possible care and make a positive difference in the lives of children and families living with autism in Ontario.”
So what’s new? The mandate for the Autism Advisory Panel has changed, and they’re being asked to develop recommendations for a new needs-based and sustainable autism program to help as many children as possible. At the same time, the Province has pledged to continue present services and therapies that families are receiving in their current Ontario Autism Program Behaviour Plan until its end date, with a potential six-month extension if requested.
The Province also affirmed a previous announcement that they’re spending an additional $278 million to bring total funding to $600 million.
“I have every confidence that together, we will get this right. It’s clear we need to ask the advisory panel to provide us with a broader set of recommendations and advice – and we need to give them the necessary time to do so,” said Smith.
The Ford government’s critics though are not as convinced.
“After putting families, service providers and educators into chaos over the past year, the Ford government is finally doing what they should have done last summer—consult with families,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a media release. “Parent protests have forced the government to finally backtrack on its refusal to provide services based on need.”
Schreiner outline five conditions for the government to fulfill including funding therapy for children and their families based on need without caps based on age or income; a balance of direct funding and direct service to families so that they have choice; support for schools and classrooms to provide autism services; and people-centred support for adults with autism and developmental disabilities.
“The government must completely overhaul its autism plan instead of piecemeal changes in response to the bad news it has received over the past six months,” Schreiner added. “With the new school year starting in a month, it’s especially important for the government to be clear about classroom plans and supports for children with autism.”
The announcement comes after months of protest from parents, and four days after KidsAbility in Guelph announced that they were cutting over two-dozen positions due to the loss of government funding.